Tuesday, 8 March 2016

'Brexit': Liberation or Suicide?


On Thursday the 23rd of June, a referendum will be held on whether Britain should remain a part of the European Union. This referendum will not only be one of the most significant events in British history, but also in Europe - James Rosanwo examines the key knock on effects of a potential vote in favour of Britain's exit.




The result of this impending vote could shape the future of the United Kingdom, as Scotland and Northern Ireland are heavily invested in Britain’s membership of the EU and will no doubt bring their own membership of the UK into question. The departure of a heavyweight member would certainly have negative effects on it’s the European Union’s dwindling economic stability.

The referendum was called after Mr Cameron completed his supposed renegotiation of Britain’s stance in the EU at the European Summit in Brussels, where he claims he has won concessions on behalf of Great Britain. However, many doubt it may do little to sway the result of the referendum in his favour. Soon after the announcement, many government ministers stated their intention to either back Mr Cameron’s campaign to remain in the EU or do the opposite, with high profile MPs, the likes of justice secretary Michael Gove and London mayor Boris Johnson, boldly reinforcing their discontent with remaining an EU member, pledging their allegiance to the “out” campaign.
The question of Britain's membership of the EU has created
a rift between key figures in the Conservative Party.

At the start of the year, the chances of “Brexit” seemed unlikely. However, recent events such as the European migration crisis and the incessant euro decline, seems to have many Britons favouring an exit. Whether, however, this is a good enough reason to opt for total economic uncertainty instead is debatable.

Mr Cameron has confirmed that if the British people decide to leave the EU, the UK would apply for withdrawal under Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty. Article 50 states that the EU countries’ would negotiate a new agreement with the withdrawing nation over a period of 2 years. It also specifies that the withdrawing state cannot participate in these discussions, so in essence the terms of the deal are established only By the EU. Hence it will be a process that will most likely not be quick or pleasant; neither will it yield results that would be favourable to Britain. One thing guaranteed is that the EU will be desperate to show that a decision to leave will not have a painless outcome.
Many opposed to remaining in the EU still maintain that Britain is being hindered by Europe, believing that  as a country free from the EU it would have an open Economy that would continue to trade with Europe and the rest of the world. Many have offered the Swiss and Norwegian models as  potential solutions:

The Swiss Model: Britain would emulate Switzerland and would negotiate trade treaties sector by sector.
The Norwegian Model: Britain leaves the EU but joins the European Economic Area, giving it access to the single market, with the exception of financial services but exempting it from EU rules on agriculture, fisheries and home affairs.

In practice, however, these models would be very difficult to implement. At the bare minimum, the EU would only allow access to the single market in return for obedience to rules Eurosceptics are so eager to escape, meaning they would still most likely demand free movement of people and big payments to its budget before permitting access to the market. Nonetheless, to these “Brexit” campaigners these hardships would be worth it, if it meant regaining independence from Europe and British sovereignty. 

Yet again, this supposed liberation is not as advantageous as it seems. In essence, Britain would be trading a greater power for a lesser one; in exchange for their newfound independence it would be relinquishing its ability to have any real influence in global issues. What is even more alarming is the threat posed to the EU and the West as a whole. Both Britain and the European Union would be significantly weaker, and less of an ally as separate entities. The strength of the EU is crucial to the West’s duty of maintaining global stability, an ordeal which is becoming more and more challenging given the ever persistent issues involving Russia, Syria, and North Africa etc. There’s no surprise why Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin would have no objection to ‘Brexit’, whereas America’s president Barack Obama has already urged the British people to vote to remain in the European Union.  

Britain's exit from the EU could further empower the already
dominant Germany.
Germany’s dominance in the EU would also monumentally increase, making them even more of an influence not just in Europe but on a global scale. Britain, on the other hand, would be on the sidelines outside the EU, free from but still in fact constrained by many rules it would have no role in formulating. We would be an independent Britain, still dependent on Europe.

The immediate effect of a vote in favour of 'Brexit' could also be devastating in further ways. Prolonged uncertainty over the UK’s new relationship with the EU would discourage investment, particularly foreign direct investment given Britain’s status as the financial capital of the world and the effects of these fears are already being identified; for instance, the recent fall of the value of the pound.

Above all, one question remains: will Britons be enticed by the illusion of a sovereign and liberal Britain, or will they see reason in the idea that there will always be safety in numbers? One thing is certain however, If the UK separates from the European Union, the decline of the pound will be the least of their worries.
Mohammad Lone Editor